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  • Mikah Meyer

Mounds of Questions on Native History

Unit #31 / 412 - Effigy Mounds National Monument

A realization I'm having now that I'm a few months into this project is that the U.S. National Park Service shares a lot of Native American sites.

It makes sense, seeing as so much of the NPS is about nature, history and culture, and Native Americans cross-section that quite often.

But what's odd for me is that my state mandated K-12 education didn't reflect the same emphasis that my country's park system puts on Natives. I feel that for the first time, only due to this trip, I am starting to scratch the surface of the Native connection to this land I call my own.

Visiting these locations filled with Native history and culture, I pondered at what point my country decided these were of value beyond land for settlement--as was the story at Pipestone National Monument. And I'm particularly curious about the present relationship of conquerors to conquered.

Is invasion guilt a phenomenon born in the 20th century, or did Napoleon at one point wish he'd have left civilizations alone? How do other countries around the world include (or not) the people who lived in their nation before it became that nation?

As I walked around Effigy Mounds National Monument in northeastern Iowa with nary another person crossing my path, I was able to consider these questions with a literal view of the land. Turning from ancient mounds in the shape of bears, eagles or circles, I looked across the Mississippi River and saw towns, industry, and large boats pass by. It made me wonder what the tipping point was for a country who essentially once produced genocide toward these people, and now devoted resources to honoring their culture.

So as today's parting thought, I ask a question:

What does the honoring of Native history in the National Park Service mean to you? And how have the national parks changed your knowledge of Native Americans from what you learned in school?

Below these pictures is a comment section you can leave your musings.

Effigy Mounds National Monument Highlight (You Can Do)!

The main activity in Effigy Mounds is to hike to as many, or few, mounds as you choose. While I was blessed with sublimely temperate weather that felt more like fall than the August of my visit, I still enjoyed the hiking paths closer to the river--both for the breeze and fewer bugs.

From my experience, and the Ranger's recommendation, the views from vistas are quite similar regardless of which overlooks you choose, so I recommend basing your hike on which mound clusters you'd like to see (laid out in detail on the Park Service's provided maps).

I've never seen so many trees and islands in the Mississippi River as here at Effigy Mounds

Upcoming Units (COMMENT with recommendations, please! What should I do at each park? Local interesting detours? Food stops?)

Iowa to Illinois to Indiana to Michigan to Ohio to New York

-Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

-Pullman National Monument

-Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

-River Raisin National Battlefield Park

-Perry's Victory & International Peace Memorial

-James A. Garfield National Historic Site

-Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site

The journey thus far:

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